Home Herbal Monograph Cow-Itch Plant, Cowhage

It grows all over India and in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Morphology Description (Habit)

M.pruriens is an herbaceous twining annual. The leaves are trifoliolate; the leaflets, broadly ovate, elliptic or rhomboid ovate and unequal at the base; the flowers, purple and in axillary, pendulous racemes; the pods, curved, longitudinally ribbed, turgid and densely clothed with persistent pale brown or grey, irritant bristles; the seeds, black, 4-6 in a pod and ovoid.

Principal Constituents

M.prurita has been found to contain L-DOPA, 40mg/g of the plant1. The plant/seeds contain the bioactive alkaloids mucunine, mucunadine, mucuadinine, pruriendine and nicotine, besides -sitosterol, glutathione, lecithin, oils, venolic and gallic acids. The seeds with seed coat showed the presence of a number of bioactive subtances including tryptamine, alkylamines, steroids, flavonoids, coumarins, cardenolides, etc2.


The total alkaloids from seeds of M.pruriens comprising 5 alkaloidal bases were found to bring about a note-worthy increase in the population of spermatozoa and in the weights of body testes, seminal vesicles and prostrate of the treated rats. The exhibited activity was found to stimulate testosterone-enanthate induced androgenic activity observed in another set of treated individuals3.

Lower dose corresponding to the clinical dose significantly decreased the sleeping time, increased the motor activity and gave equivocal results in rotarod test in experimental animals. The high dose (3 times the clinical dose) significantly increased the sleeping time, decreased the motor activity and reduced the time for falling from the rod. Thus the drug possesses CNS stimulant effect at low doses and CNS depressant effect at high doses4.

A seed diet produced a hypoglycemic effect in normal rats, however, such a diet had an insignificant effect on alloxan- treated rats5.

Clinical Studies

In 15 psychiatric patients, M.pruriens (15 g of of crude seed powder was found to significantly inhibit the prolactin response to chlorpromazine injection, as effectively as 0.5 g of L-dopa).

No side effects were observed in these patients6.

Sixty patients with Parkinson's disease were treated with M.pruriens in an open study for 12 weeks. Statistically significant reductions in Hoehn and Unified Parkinson's disease rating scale scores were seen form baseline to the end of 12 week treatment7.


Adverse effects were mild and were mainly gastro-intestinal in nature. No adverse effects were seen in clinical laboratory reports (Ibid, 1995).


L-DOPA is a neurotransmitter precursor, an effective drug for relief in Parkinson's disease. The seed is a prophylactic against oligospermia, useful in increasing sperm count, ovulation in women, etc. It prevents male and female sterility and acts as a nervine tonic.

Product Range

Confido, Geriforte, Mentat, Mentat syrup, Speman, Tentex forte, Anxocare, Geriforte Aqua, Geriforte Vet, Speman Vet.

  1. Parikh et. al., Indian Drugs, 1990, 27, 353; ChemAbstr, 1993, 119, 234161, 245571.
  2. Sinha, J Res Educ Indian Med, 1992, 11(1), 15; Goyal, J Econ Taxon Bot, 1991, 15, 677.
  3. Saksena, S. and Dixit, V.K., Ind. J. Nat. Prod, 1987, 3(1), 3-7.
  4. Ahmad, S., et. al., Conference of Pharmacology and Symposium on Herbal Drugs (New Delhi), March 1991, 15, 26.
  5. Parikh et. al., Indian Drugs, 1990, 27, 353; Gopal, J Econ Taxon Bot, 1991, 15, 677; Handaet. al., Fitoterapia, 1989, 60, 210.
  6. Vaidya, R. A., Neurology (India), 1978, 26, 177.
  7. Manyam B.V. 1995, J. Altern. Completment Med. Fall. 1(3): 249-255.